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    Physical Geography

    Laboratory for physical volcanology (PVL)

    Laboratory for physical volcanology (PVL)

    Since 1991 the Universität Würzburg hosts the Physikalisch Vulkanologisches Labor (PVL). In this physics-lab experimental methods are used to investigate eruption physics and properties of magma.

    Physical volcanology deals with processes and mechanisms of volcanoes, their emplacement, eruptions, and deposition of volcanic products.

    Geophysics in Würzburg covers the range from the classic methods of geophysical survey (seismics, geoelectrics, geomagnetics, and gravimetry) to newly developed techniques (e.g. short time electrical methods for surveilance of volcanoes and flank instabilities).

    Geophysics as subsidiary subject in Geography and Physics in Würzburg consists of laboratory and field courses, accompanied by lectures and seminars. Students of Geography and Physics also have the opportunity to participate in ongoing research at the PVL.

    June and July 2016: Experimental studies on the biggest submarine explosive eruption ever „seen“(L’Havre Seamount 2012, Northeast of New Zeeland).

    Rocks representing the magma sampled about 700 m below the sea level was molten in an induction furnace. This melt then was used for fragmentation experiments to measure the critical parameters needed to explain explosive behavior. The experimental particles can be compared to natural products the deposits produced by this eruption.

    Team: NZ: James White, Arran Murch, Andrea Verolino. WÜ: Ralf Büttner, Bernd Zimanowski, Julian Friedrichs und Gero Schuh.


    March 2016: Simulating explosive submarine eruptions in the lab

    Jets of volcanic ash produced within a 60x60 cm large water-filled tank: with (left picture) and without pumice particles (right picture). Aim was to observe the emplacement of high velocity plumes in a water body.


    October 2015: Volcanoe surveillance in Island – EU-Projekt Futurevolc

    After 2 years of operation under the harsh climate of Central Iceland the stations for detecting electrostatic field fluctuations were checked and overhauled. All is set for the next explosive eruption to come (Picture: e-station Katla volcano).

    June to August 2015: Experimental investigations on the gasrich Eruption of the  Bárðarbunga volcanic system (Iceland, 2014/2015)

    Why was this largest eruption since Laki 1783 not explosive, but extremely mild effusive? Also in laboratory experiments no explosions could be observed – in contrast to comparative experiments using material from Laki. Probably not only environmental factors lead to the mild behavior of Bárðarbunga 2014/15 but properties of the magma itself.

     Left: Bárðarbunga-Melt, right: Laki-Melt – in each case 150 ml at 1200 °C. Pictures shot 3 ms after injection of 10 ml of water respectively.
    Crew: Bernd Zimanowski, Ralf Büttner, Felix Englert und Sara Hocheder

    May 2014: Ashclouds over Gerbrunn

    3 gas-impulse canons, installed on a hill south of the campus area, were used to experimentally generate volcanic ash-plumes. The ash was imported from Iceland and comes from samples taken from the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull volcano. The experiments were performed to test and calibrate the new instruments for monitoring the Icelandic volcanoes in the frame of the EU-project FUTUREVOLC and to ensure that in the case of new eruptions the air-traffic will be shut down only if it is really necessary.   About 20 volcanologists, predominantly from partner institutions of the EU-project were participating with these benchmark experiments.

    More at:  http://www.presse.uni-wuerzburg.de/videostream/1405_vulkan/


    December 2013: Measurements at the “Strokkur” geyser

    Eruptions of the geyser were monitored by highspeed- and infrared cameras in combination with seismic and electric sensors, using the “water volcano” to test systems for volcanic eruption monitoring – done in cooperation with the University of Iceland’s Institute of Earth Sciences.

    September 2013: Volcano-monitoring in Iceland: EU-Project Futurevolc

    Three fixed stations for electrical field measurements have been installed at Grimsfjall (Grimsvötn), at Feðgar (Hekla), and at Slysaalda (Katla). An additional mobile station is ready for operation if an eruption should occur.

    June 2013: Volcano-monitoring in Iceland: EU Project Futurevolc

    Aim of the European resarch project ist the installation of an advanced monitoring system fort he Icelandic volcanoes Hekla, Katla, Grimsvötn, and Eyjafallajökull. A better data-base must be available for the decisions of the European air traffic authorities. The first new sensors have now been deployed and PVL’s contributions are specially designed electrical sensors. 



    May 2013: Man-made Maar-craters in Buffalo

    Ongoing cooperation with "Center for GeoHazards Studies" (State University of New York at Buffalo): Experimental formation of maar volcanoes is investigated by repeated blast cratering within an artificial host-rock pad. In addition, the Würzburg group used the experiments to test the electrical sensor systems developed for monitoring of the Iceland volcanoes in the frame of the European research project Futurevolc.



    July, 2012: Large scale blast experiments in Buffalo

    Researchers from the PVL took part at a series of blast experiments, conducted by the "Center for GeoHazards Studies" (University of Buffalo) in order to analyze diatreme-forming processes on a large scale.


    May, 2012: New experimental series produce diatremes in a sandbox

    In cooperation with guest scientists from University of Otago (Dunedin, New Zealand) experimental runs were performed in order to study the structural evolution of diatremes caused by maar-like eruptions.

    August, 2011: Field works in Iceland

    In cooperation with the crew of Prof. Magnús Guðmundsson (University of Iceland) eruption sites of Grímsvötn and Eyjafjallajökull were analyzed.

    May, 2011: Grímsvötn erupts

    After 2004, subglacial Grímsvötn volcano erupts again.
    Just as predicted.

    April, 2010: Eyjafjallajökull erupts

    Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull annoys news anchors and air passengers, and keeps the PVL crew on the go.

    2009 Experimental Series in Southern Italy

    Another series of large-scale experiments were performed in cooperation with Dipartimento Geomineralogico of Bari University.

    Lab presence in public media increases drastically

    Public interest in our laboratory has increased drastically in the last months. Several Science magazines and reports of federal TV broadcasting stations distributed information on this labs various activities. Among others the lab was represented in the following magazines:

    2008 Experimental Series in Southern Italy

    Cooperation with Dipartimento Geomineralogico of Bari University (Puglia) resulted this year in another series of experiments.

    Second Round of Experiments in Southern Italy

    The joint operation with Dipartimento Geomineralogico of Bari University (Puglia) finished its second experimental series. This time a strongly stressed point of research were behavior differences due to different ash temperatures.
    Some snapshots:



    Workshop on subaqueous and subglacial Volcanism

    Participants from Iceland, Scotland, and Flagstaff (and sure from Germany) meet at the PVL.
    The first have already been spotted

    Röntgenpreis for Tobias Dürig

    Congratulations to Tobias Dürig, who receives the Röntgenpreis of the faculty of physics for his excellent grades and achievements during his studies.
    (Yes it is Tobias, not Thomas as announced by the faculty of physics. The mix-up might be due to his extraordinary rare name ...)

    Lab Activities at Grimsvötn Volcano, Iceland

    Read more about it at the University Press release

    New Experimental Site in Southern Italy

    Joint operation with Dipartimento Geomineralogico of Bari University (Puglia).

    Large scale experiment:
    Up to 250 kg of volcanic ash are pushed into the atmosphere under controlled conditions to investigate volcanic plumes and pyroclastic density currents.

    More details about this at the University press release .